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Indonesia needs to move on from spying row: Abbott

SYDNEY — It is high time Indonesia moves past allegations of spying by Australia and resumes cooperating with Canberra on asylum seekers and other issues, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He added that Jakarta’s actions following a diplomatic dispute over phone-tapping had been “singularly unhelpful”.

SYDNEY — It is high time Indonesia moves past allegations of spying by Australia and resumes cooperating with Canberra on asylum seekers and other issues, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He added that Jakarta’s actions following a diplomatic dispute over phone-tapping had been “singularly unhelpful”.

Indonesia recalled its Ambassador to Australia and suspended military, intelligence-gathering and people-smuggling cooperation last month, after reports emerged that Australian spies had attempted to tap President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone and those of his wife and others in his inner circle in 2009.

Other news reports, similarly based on documents by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, claimed that Canberra plays an important role in a global surveillance network led by the United States. The row sparked the worst tensions between Indonesia and Australia in years.

In allegations that may fan the flames, an Australian news report on Saturday claimed Australian intelligence had spied on Mr Yudhoyono’s wife, Madam Kristiani Herawati, to monitor her rising political influence. Officials have rejected the claims made in The Australian newspaper, which cited a leaked 2007 cable from the US Embassy in Jakarta.

Mr Abbott said the suspension of cooperation had not been helpful to his new government’s aim of stopping asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat, an important political issue to Canberra. “There’s no doubt the suspension of cooperation by the Indonesian authorities has been unhelpful — it’s been singularly unhelpful,” he said at a news conference marking his administration’s 100 days in office.

Facilitated by people smugglers, many asylum seekers head for the country from Indonesian shores on board rickety boats and hundreds have died making the perilous journey. “Stop the boats” was a key pledge made by Mr Abbott ahead of his electoral victory in September.

“Given that people smuggling is a crime in Indonesia, just as it’s a crime in Australia, I think it’s high time ... that cooperation is resumed,” he added.

“In the end”, Mr Abbott said Australia had accepted that “what Indonesia does is a matter for Indonesia and what Australia does is a matter for Australia”. “We absolutely respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and expect Indonesia to respect our sovereignty. As far as we’re concerned, these illegal boats that are coming to Australia are a sovereignty issue.”

Indonesia wants a new code of conduct to map out the future of the bilateral relationship, including guarantees against future spying activities.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Jakarta last week, expressing regret and agreeing to a bilateral code of conduct to restore trust. Her counterpart, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, said bilateral cooperation would resume when the code has been finalised. AGENCIES

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